Paperless Drywall

by Nick Gromicko, CMI® 

How is paperless drywall different from traditional drywall?

Paperless drywall was developed recently in order to combat problems with mold.  As stories of mold-related health concerns have proliferated in the news during recent years, all of the major drywall manufacturers have rolled out new products designed to resist the growth of mold.

Traditional drywall is made up of gypsum and paper.  To create a sheet of drywall, the gypsum is pressed between two thick pieces of paper and then kiln-dried.  Since the paper covering on traditional drywall can allow for the growth of mold if it becomes damp or wet, paperless drywall was developed in an attempt to combat this problem.  

Paperless drywall is similar to traditional drywall in that it also contains a gypsum core.  The difference is that instead of using paper as an outer wrapping, fiberglass is used instead.  The gypsum core in paperless drywall is also water-resistant, unlike the core of traditional drywall.  These changes in the makeup of the drywall are intended to reduce the risk of mold growth by making the drywall as resistant as possible to moisture and water.  While the new paperless drywall products are not mold-proof, they offer more protection from the threat of mold than traditional drywall.


Paperless drywall can be used in any area where standard drywall can be used, and it is recommended by manufacturers for use especially in areas where higher moisture levels could raise concerns about mold.  Bathrooms, kitchens, basements and garages are all areas that could possibly benefit from the installation of paperless drywall.  While paperless drywall is more water-resistant than traditional drywall, it is not intended for use in conditions where it will be exposed regularly to water, such as inside a shower stall.

Pros and Cons of Paperless Drywall

There are benefits and concerns to consider with paperless drywall, a relatively new product.  Some advantages to consider when choosing it over traditional drywall include the following.

  • It is designed to offer an improved level of protection from the growth of mold.
  • The surface strength of paperless drywall is greater than that of standard drywall due to the added rigidity of the fiberglass covering.  It is less likely to become damaged because of this attribute. 
  • Paperless drywall offers special advantages in high-moisture areas, such as basements and bathrooms, where mold growth is a big concern.

While there are some great features offered that will be helpful in certain applications, there have been some complaints and concerns raised, as well.

  • Paperless drywall is more expensive per square foot, compared to traditional drywall. 
  • In some areas of the U.S., availability is also a concern.  Paperless drywall is a fairly new product and may not be available in some areas.
  • A major concern that has been the topic of some debate is that paperless drywall is more difficult to install and finish than standard drywall.

Installation and Finishing

There has been some discussion, especially among professional drywall installers, about issues related to finishing and installation of paperless drywall.  The fiberglass covering is far more rigid than the traditional paper covering.  While this can be beneficial because it adds to the surface strength of the drywall, it has also proven to be problematic in some instances where installers have run into trouble mounting the drywall with screws.  Traditional drywall is soft enough to “dimple” when the head of the screw comes down on the surface, providing a countersink that will finish over smoothly later on.  Some installers have had problems with screw heads not sinking well into the fiberglass, as well as trouble getting screws in straight, causing extra work and frustration.  The fiberglass covering has also been reported to cause skin irritation on par with that caused by the installation of fiberglass insulation. 

The surface of the fiberglass on the paperless drywall is not as smooth as the paper covering on traditional drywall.  A mirror-smooth drywall finish is very popular in some areas, such as California.  In these cases, extra finishing is often required in order to bring the paperless drywall to the desired final smoothness.  Some manufacturers have taken steps to avoid this issue by producing a smoother-textured fiberglass covering, but it has been a concern with some brands in the past.

Paperless drywall is a recent innovation.  It will be interesting over the next few years to see how new installations of it are holding up, and if it is living up to the claims that manufacturers have made.  Inspectors are likely to see more frequent instances of paperless drywall use, and time will tell if this product is destined for more widespread popularity in the future.